May 17, 2009

Week 34 – Exams are looming

Okay I realise I've forgotten to keep this updated, but that's mainly because I keep going away at the weekends and I'm generally just busy. I think it's now week 34 although it doesn't particularly matter. Weeks and days are now just blending into one another, and the fact that it's a sunday makes no difference at all to my daily routine. For the past week solid I've spent most of my time in the Learning Grid churning out problem sheet questions and memorising derivations. Luckily I managed to rope a fellow student, Kevin, into doing much the same, and we've secured the same exact seating in the Grid for 4 days running. It's definately been helpful, but somehow I still feel underprepared.

My exam timetable is actually pretty much the best you can hope being a third year. The exams are inevitably early on in this third term (starting tomorrow!), but for me at least, they're relatively well spread. Most of my friends are unlucky enough to have chosen all the modules which are examined in the same week. I know at least two people who have 7 or 8 exams over the next 5 days, which is downright horrific. Anyway, my breakdown looks something like this:

Monday 18th: Cosmology in the afternoon. It's an hour and a half paper (standard length for the 7.5 CAT modules) and it's one of the nicest. The format of the exam means you're practically guaranteed one question per section of the course, and so you can focus revision on the two sections you find easiest to understand. The last question is also a rarity in physics papers; a written essay about three topics. If you've read most of these possible topic areas, you can rack up the marks at an alarmingly fast rate.

Tuesday 19th: Magnetic Resonance in the morning. I was at first glance quite worried by this, because there are a lot of odd concepts to get your head around, but a good revision lecture and plenty of revision so far means I'm no that worried. The questions are similar most years and I'm only struggling with a couple of problems at the moment.

Saturday 23rd: Non-linearity, chaos and complexity. Okay, so it's on a saturday and that sucks. I guess so, but as I wrote earlier, who cares about days during exam periods. This is probably my least prepared for exam. I missed a lot of the lectures, and I'm finding it difficult to comprehend a lot of the lecturers solutions. Plus the revision class was cancelled. I really need to spend some solid time on this after the mag res exam and find some others to talk me through it.

Tuesday 26th: Astrophysics. The BIG ONE. Double module (15 CATS), and 3 hours to do 4 questions. Most of the questions are fairly straightforward, and you don't have to think all that much, but there is SO MUCH material to memorise and become familiar with. As soon as non-linearity is over, I'm heading straight to the Grid and cramming everything into my head for this.

Saturday 30th: Condensed Matter. Another big one I suppose, being a double, but I'm not that worried about this. One half of it is a re-run of one of the spring exams, and the other half was summarised in half an hour perfectly by the lecturer. One type of question is guaranteed to come up, with only a few possibilities for the others. Plus the fact that I have nothing else to focus on after astrophysics except this.

Right, so it doesn't sound too bad, but we'll see how things go. As for my spring exams, they were a mixed bag to say the least. The first quantum paper (atoms) was fine. It didn't go as well as expected because some annoying little questions came up that stumped me, and I fudged the first answer, but it was okay. The medicine exam was pretty fantastic. Others said they found it hard, but only because two questions came up on the topics most people had avoided revising.  Having to do 2 out of the 3 questions offered, they did well in one but had no clue in the other forced choice. Whereas my last minute revision for that exam on the areas I hated, turned out to be critical, and I had a nice choice of questions available. Then there was the second quantum paper (solids) and it was terrible from the offset. I know I didn't revise enough for that one, so a poor start was guaranteed, but all three questions were from the last 1/4 of the course syllabus, and two of them were just briefly mentioned in the notes almost as an aside (such as go and read this bit of a book). Oh well, everyone found that moderatly bad to impossible, so the average mark is low, and it shoud get normalised up considerably. At least I hope!

Time to go put in another 8 hours or so of revision for tomorrow and tuesday.

January 20, 2009

Week 16 (Module results are in!)

This entry is a little late, as this weekend was surprisingly busy considering I didn't really do a lot.

Week 16 has been much the same as week 15, with lectures just carrying on; they're fairly interesting but still just lectures where you take notes and repeat ad infinitum. Labs have picked up a bit now we're a little less confused on what we're aiming towards overall, but the simulations we're now running are taking ~ hours, and not the 10 or so minutes they were last term. This makes taking a laptop to lab sessions is crucial to avoid complete boredom breakdowns, and extended lunchbreaks of 2 and a 1/2 hours have become the norm. Not bad though, at least we're making some progress towards reportable findings.

That's about all as far is current work is concerned, and as I've been living the economic perfect student life it's been quitre a dull week. I did manage to go out for a foos curry social as avoiding them as an exec member isn't well advised, and because I hadn't done anything for the rest of the week, it was more fun that usual to just have a couple of drinks and a curry with friends. On Friday I also had a couple of drinks at Spoons in Earlsdon, all thanks to their spectacular 99p a pint promotion at the moment.

Other than that, all I've spent money on is food shopping, which I managed to do really well on by buying all the basics stuff, and I've even made money this week by trading in my PS3 for quite a bit of cash. Not a bad result with an expensive foos tournament coming up at the end of week 17 in Liverpool.

Module results are also in for Communicating Science! Well, that's not strictly true, but I've estimated them from my individual assignments and their respective weightings, and it looks like ~ 65 or so without doing it properly. I thought it should have been higher in all honesty so I'm a little disappointed, especially as my final journal article only got a mark of 63, after I'd received excellent feedback for my draft copy and made the appropriate corrections too. Oh well, thats a strong 2:1 and 15 CATS taken care of as well. I also got back by interim report mark, with a 65 in that too, so things so far look promising for at least a 2:1 this year.

Putting in a mass amount of effort in exams and associated revision as I'm planning to do could even secure me a first, which is my aim for the year, so currently I'm quite a happy guy.

January 10, 2009

Week 15

I've decided I'm going to write an entry here at least once a week until graduation to keep this updated and being the end of the first week back this term, it feels like the right time to start.

Workwise things haven't been too bad. A couple of days a week I have hours and hours of lectures one after another, but I've sorted out my final module registration choices and now my timetable for the next 9 weeks seems pretty bearable. This past week has been very nice as well due to a lot of introductory type lectures which are easy on the brain, and no labs. Not that I shouldn't have had labs of course, just that our project supervisor has been busy so we've had no work to get on with. The lecture modules also seem good on the whole, with mainly dependable and useful lecturers. This is normally an issue in physics where you can count on at least a couple of lecturers being, let's say "less than adequate", but at first glance it looks like I'll end up understanding most of the topics first time round. 

I've also made the conscious decision to give up poker until the end of the academic year. Admittedly it's always nice to earn a few extra hundred pounds a term, but I tend to really overdo it once I start playing again, and leave myself little to no time to put in the amount of effort I need for work. With that hobby (some would say addiction) gone, I'm already finding I'm significantly more organised and aware of everything. Even to the point where I now have time set aside to make computised concise revision notes for all my lecture courses. Hopefully that'll be helpful over Easter when major scale revision kicks in.

From what I've just written it would seem as if nothing could be going better, but that's when nature strikes you down. I noticed during a lecture on Thursday that I had a little rash on my hands but thought little else of it, until my parents called later that evening. I popped in the question of if I was allergic to anything I didn't know about, and was told that yes, I was in fact allergic to a rare product used only in obscure items. Well, lucky me, I'd managed to buy a shower gel with the offending product in, and now, on Saturday afternoon, I have a horrible looking rash all up my arms, chest and neck. Looking at the positives, at least I didn't use the shower gel anywhere which would have been worse, and it should just go away over the next few days. To add to the problem, I've now got a right stinking cold as well :(, but I guess this is the best time to get it out the way.

Oh well, I expected something annoying to happen first week back.

Reading the Boar the other day, I happened across an interesting article (quite a surprise I admit) which was an argument between living the typical student life against the green perfect student life. Obviously from the outset the conclusion was going to be - "It's best to a live a balanced mix of socialising and working hard" - but the perfect student life actually seemed really productive and cheap, two things I need to aim for at the moment. With my sudden burst of Monica from Friends style organisation and willingness to put in the effort this term, I think going out as little as possible and living off the Sainsbury's basic range could be the way forward. I'll see if I can keep it up for the remainder of the term and see if the predicted effects occur (clearly being more prepared for exams at the expense of being bored out of my mind).

January 05, 2009

The Start of Year 3 Term 2

It's the first day of term 2 in what is now my third and final year at Warwick. I've already hit a 9 on the stressometer and it's a sure sign of things to come.

We were left with an interim report to complete over the christmas break which had a workload of something like 20 hours realistically. This involved research into our project area and then formally writing it up along with a summary of work already completed and a plan of action for the remainder of the time. Not too bad I guess as the only thing to spoil christmas holidays. I got off to a cracking start, basically writing the entire theory section in the first week of the holidays and having already done the other two smaller sections as a draft before the end of the first term. Then I made a huge mistake - leaving tidying it up until two days ago. I thought things would be fine as I just had to make some corrections and reference things up, but oh no, I ended up rewriting vast sections and I must have put at least 15 hours of work in over the last 2 days alone. Stressful times!

Oh well, thats finished and handed in now, so things should be back on track for an easy term right? Well being a third year, I'm now fully aware that no easy weeks ever occur in the Warwick physics department, let alone entire terms, and I was quickly reassured of this when I browsed my timetable last night. It looked okay at first glance, particularly as the ever so time consuming Communicating Science module is completed. However, I'm doing 6 of the 7 possible lecture modules this term, and Fluids manages to clash with two other lecture courses on different days. Nightmare situation already for collecting a full set of notes, plus the fact that all the rooms seem to be at opposite corners of campus, so all us phsyicists will be oscillating between rooms, missing the starts and ends of everything. Fantastic.

In addition to this wonderful timetable and project work, the boiler at our house is packing up again, even though they replaced almost all of it over the christmas break, and the Virgin TV box keeps entertaining us by displaying weird channel numbers before dying every few hours. Yet more phonecalls and annoying little things to sort out. Just what I need.

I guess I shouldn't complain too much. This is the final year so I expected it to be a challenge, and I know I'm having a relatively simple time with my project as everything is running as expected (unlike some very unlucky groups I've spoken to). I still expect something horrific to randomly be thrown at us soon too, so I'll take a few weeks of long lecture days and be happy with it for now.

I imagine I'll be blogging a significant amount this term since I've given up on poker to concentrate on my studies, and this will be my place to escape and procrastinate. Good luck everyone enjoying a similarly stressful start to term 2!

March 31, 2008

The Easter Break / Revision

So it's the beginning of the third week of the easter break at Warwick and the actual easter holidays have passed by for all those school kids and adults around the world. So what does that mean for me?

Hours of revision and sorting out annoying little problems sadly.

My parents are now back at work and all my old friends from college are either working or are staying at their own uni's for the break. So begins my first week of sitting in front of the TV with no prospects of seeing friends or being invited anywhere out of the ordinary. (Okay I lie a little; I've got a couple of gigs to go to next week and a few nights out with friends, but they're few and far between). I'm therefore left with this long and boring list of mundane tasks to carry out on top of the much larger topic of revision.

1. Student financing for adding an extra year to my course - This is becoming a wild goose chase at present with no one seeming to understand what I'm asking for or who is responsible for the change.

2. Tracing the origins of some mysterious bills to our house at uni - Where in similar fashion no one wants to take responsibility.

3. Switching my mobile contract - Not a huge deal but it requires a long trip to a shopping centre that I honestly can't be bothered with.

4. Trying to organise all my lecture notes, handouts and downloaded stuff for this year into a well-structured archive to aid my revision - Anyone who has ever attempted to do this for a 2nd Year Physics Course presumably understands the level of difficulty involved.

5. Lab report number 2 - Well, enough said. I'd like to finish this before term 3 so it's out of the way but progress is very very slow at the moment.

6. Millions of other little things, like treasury stuff for the foos society, bank account checking, applying for summer jobs, letter writing, phone calls to people I don't like, ordering stuff from the internet, train times etc etc etc.

7. In case I've already forgotten - REVISION.

So I've decided to come up with a plan to stop this list of tasks looking so menacing. It's completely based around TV which tells you a lot about me and tries to leave weekends free for actual fun activities. Of course in my eyes fun activities are rollerblading, which is entirely weather dependent, and ps3 playing, which could turn me into a hermet if done for long enough.


7am: Annoyingly get woken up when parents leave for work. Get ready and all that jazz.

8am: Make largest breakfast ever to fuel my day of work ahead.

9am: Quit watching Takeshi's Castle and Ninja Warrior and start 3 hours of revision. (I see the major flaw in the plan here of assuming I'll last 3 hours)

12pm: Lunch / PS3 / Guitar Hero / General laziness

2pm: Restart the revision and/or lab report.

4pm: Watch Miami Ink for tattoo inspiration.

5pm: Upon parents return from work do those annoying tasks mentioned earlier until someone decides to cook me a nice tea.

6.30pm: Eat said large tea.

7pm: This is where I know I should write something like "do more revision" or "organise this or that" but I realise that with my current level of motivation this will become "Have a beer and watch TV".

9pm: Either have a break from work or continue to basically do nothing.

11pm: Drag myself upstairs to get some sleep so I can repeat the entire process.

Reading that through just makes me feel so depressed with the deterioration in quality of holidays as university continues. The first year left you with a couple of pieces of work to finish over each holiday. The Christmas break in the second year wasn't too bad (although definately worse than the first year), with a computing assignment and maths sheet to do. Then we get hit with this Easter break! Replacing the word holiday or break with "continuation of course at home" isn't far from the truth.

Bring on the end of exams and a hopefully free summer. I get the feeling I'll be blogging frequently during the exam period in frustration, so happy reading.

March 11, 2008

Let actual fun commence

Follow-up to Sunday Afternoon Formal Lab Report Fun from Rich's Blog

It's now Tuesday morning and somehow everything has fallen into place. Last night around 11pm I printed off the formal after handing in the A1 lab write up much earlier during the day.

I kept to my promise and left only a little to do yesterday, and I set to work to get it done. Thankfully I didn't over run the page limit once I'd written my discussion, and only had a slight scare when I hit the 10 page mark after referencing. Luckily for me I moved some figures around and squeezed in a couple of captions to make the 9 page limit.

So now I'm essentially done with work this term (minus a small maths webwork thing) and I'm off to enjoy myself. Tonight is the battle of the bands final and I'm supporting 3 of the finalists. Tomorrow is a foos social which will quite obviously involve drinking, and Thursday will also end in a similar result. Bring on 3 days solid of destroying my liver.

March 09, 2008

Sunday Afternoon Formal Lab Report Fun

The fun of a Sunday afternoon is seemingly lost once you realise just how long it takes to finish a formal lab report in the Physics Department. Due to outside committments I've essentially had about a week give or take a few days to finish this formal along with a standard lab write for A1, an astronomy lab, at the same time.

I started work on Wednesday afternoon after completing three of the four lab sessions for the astro lab. We had all our results and given that I wanted this lab write-up out the way, I set about completing it by the end of the day. The time drew nearer about 10pm and I realised that finishing wasn't likely in the next couple of hours. Regardless things were looking good timing wise. I'd certainly get the write-up completed by the end of Thursday (which I managed narrowly to do with just a couple of references and page numbers to sort out) and then have Friday evening, all of Saturday, most of Sunday and the whole of Monday to sort out the formal report for S1, the spectrometry lab. The deadline is Tuesday afternoon so by my plans I'd even have Tuesday morning for some finishing touches and checking through. Excellent.

Well Friday evening came and I started writing the formal for the lab I probably liked least. I managed to write up most of the theory and called it a night pretty early to sit back and enjoy some beers. Basically I had no motivation to keep going after already spending two days solid on another lab.

I woke up early on Saturday, keen to go into the library and use the silent study room and some extra books to crack on and get most of the report done. My housemate came with me to find some references for his report and A1 write-up as well. Things were again looking promising as I completed some difficult sections and set about drawing some diagrams on a laptop (never a simple task). We went for lunch and ended up watching the darts society's version of bullseye. After an hour or so I comtemplated going back to the library and then decided I'd rather go home. In hindsight this was a bad plan.

Despite knowing I should be working when I got back, I opted to do meaningless tasks such as finally cleaning the house and organising notes just to break the monotiny of report writing. This wasted most of the afternoon and with my girlfriend visiting in a few hours time I was destined to do no more work until Sunday afternoon.

That brings me to the present. It's about 4pm and I've been working again on the report for a good couple of hours. Sadly it's not progressing at any real speed and I see various problems ahead. Once I finally manage to complete the results and discussion section, I'll have about 10/11 pages. This has to be cut down to 9 pages to be accepted. That's probably going to require more effort than writing most of it in the first place as there are few places I can cut down without losing valuable aspects of my report. After that, I have the obvious thrill of referencing everything, page numbering and figure labelling. I don't envisage an early night.

Ive also promised myself that I'm not going to leave a large amount of work still to do tomorrow. That means I've really got to find some motivation and plough through, even though currently I'm getting distracted by anything and everything (evidently shown by my blogging).

I'll update with results of completion when it happens hopefully.

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